Cold, snow and ice continue to remind us it’s still winter, but severe storm season is here now

Posted March 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm

We may be dealing still with ice and snow that this relentless winter continues to send our way, but at this time of year, those aren’t the weather conditions that should be giving us the most concern.

Severe weather remains the biggest, and most common threat Kentuckians face on a daily basis. If we need a reminder, we only have to look back to the severe storms and tornadoes that ravaged the Commonwealth on February 29 and March 2, 2012, leaving 25 dead, hundreds homeless and thousands of homes damaged.

Locally, just look at the damage reported last week in the Clinton County News when a severe storm demolished buildings and almost destroyed a home in the southeastern portion of the county.

Because of such weather conditions, Governor Steve Beshear has signed a proclamation declaring March 2-8 as Severe Weather Awareness Week, urging all Kentuckians to be aware and be prepared.

As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, on Tuesday morning of this week, March 4, the National Weather Service, partnering with KYEM (Kentucky Emergency Management) and the Kentucky Broadcasters Association, conducted a tornado test message, activating NOAA Weather radios and broadcast media. Several schools and businesses, as well as government agencies and citizens participated in tornado safety drills.

In Albany and Clinton County, the Tornado Safety Drill will be conducted this coming Friday afternoon, March 8, according to Director of Emergency Services Lonnie Scott.

Scott said last Friday that the statewide test date and drill conflicted with the local school district, which was taking the ACT test on that date. So, the tornado drill at the schools will take place at 1 p.m., as well as the tornado sirens across the county being activated and tested at that time.

It should be noted this will only be a test of the sirens in order to make sure that if any aren’t working properly, they can be repaired quickly. Also, in case of actual threatening weather, the test will be postponed.

Scott said the drill and testing of the warning sirens would be in conjunction with the schools, which is conducted on an annual basis.

The DES noted that the warning sirens are occasionally tested on an individual basis and “all are working now,” but added he was going to check one more time of the one near the Clinton County Industrial Park prior to the drill later this week.

Scott also noted that perhaps the most confusing thing about weather alerts issued during storms is that of people not really knowing the difference between a “watch” alert being issued compared to an actual “warning,” saying many people believe that severe weather is imminently upon them even when just a watch is issued.

For example, a watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather in or near the watch area. Watches are issued for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods, and in the case of a tornado means they are possible in and close to the watch area.

During an actual warning, it means the severe weather event is imminent or occurring in the warned area. Warnings are also issued for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, flash floods and river flooding.

The watches and warnings are also issued for such things as fire hazard weather conditions and winter storms.

Lightning also kills many people across the U.S. each year and during conditions where lightning is occurring or severe thunderstorms are taking place, people should take precautions and stay inside sturdy buildings or a basement if possible.

The following Tornado Safety Tips have been provided by the Kentucky Emergency Management:

— Before a Tornado:

* Have a family tornado plan in place and practice a family tornado drill at least once a year.

* Have a pre-determined place to meet after a disaster.

* Learn the signs of a tornado: dark, greenish sky; large hail; dark, low clouds; and loud roaring sounds.

* When a tornado watch is issued, practice your drill and check our safety supplies.

* Increase your situational awareness by monitoring the weather on, watching local TV, or listening to NOAA Weather Radio.

* Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes; so store protective coverings (e.g., mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc) in or next to your shelter space, ready to use on a few seconds notice.

* Tornado rule of thumb: Put as many walls and floors between you and the tornado as possible!

* If you are planning to build a house, consider an underground tornado shelter or an interior “safe room”

* In a mobile home: Get out! Go to a neighbor, underground shelter, or a nearby permanent structure. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes.

— During a Tornado:

* Wear a bicycle or motorcycle helmet to protect your head and neck or cover your head with a thick book.

* In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some type of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.

* In a house without a basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, in a small interior room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down. A bath tub may offer a shell or partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fall.

* In a car or truck: If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible–out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges.

* In the open outdoors: lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can.

— After a Tornado:

* Remain calm and alert, and listen to the radio or TV for instructions from authorities.

* Keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive.

* Carefully render aid to those who are injured.

* Stay away from downed power lines.

* Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects.

* Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings.

* Do not use matches or lighters, there might be leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby.